PHOENIX (AP) — Jacob Barton's mood would swing from wild highs to crashing lows. He had no idea why.
He struggled with the fluctuations for years, confused and frustrated. Finally, he got help. This year, a psychiatrist diagnosed bipolar disorder.
"It was a relief, because now I had a reason," Barton said. "It wasn't just that I was moody or it wasn't something that I was doing that was causing it. There was a medical reason for the way I was acting, feeling. It was a weight off my shoulders."
The 31-year-old Chandler man had been dabbling in poetry but his interest intensified after his diagnosis. Writing was a way to sort out some of the feelings he was having and the medication he was now taking helped him focus.
He recently published a collection of his poems, "Dreams from a Bipolar Mind." The 72-page book is available in print and electronic versions from Amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble website.
The poems cover themes, including love, God, family or whatever else happened to be on Barton's mind when he was inspired to write. Barton dedicated the book to his entire family, but especially to his wife, Andrea.
"I was diagnosed bipolar in April of this year," Barton said. "It started to make sense where these things were coming from. One of my wife's cousins suggested I put them into a book form. That's how it got started."
Barton's family also was relieved to find a cause for his struggles. Ann Barton, Jacob's mother, said they didn't recognize the symptoms initially. Even some doctors had trouble figuring out what was going on.
"One doctor said if he would lose weight that might be it," Ann Barton said. "It was obvious it went a little deeper than that. He would need some help from someone that knew what they were doing."
Throughout history some of civilization's most respected artists are believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder. Creative minds like painter Vincent Van Gogh, composer Robert Schumann and writers like Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway were either diagnosed or were thought to have had the condition.
Mona Amini, a psychiatrist at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, said forms of creative expression can be beneficial in helping people deal with bipolar disorder.
"I think poetry, art and creativity help them kind of stave off and prevent the kind of anguish they go through with some of the symptoms," Amini said. "Often, people use some kind of mechanism to help with their symptoms. Some people like exercise or outdoor activity. Some are creatively inclined and they tend to make more music or they write or do art or poetry."
Barton now is working toward a degree in Christian studies.
With the help of treatment — in his case medication and therapy — he has taken control of his life.
"It has allowed me to focus more," Barton said. "Before, I would write a little bit and then go off on a different thing. But now, I can focus all my energy on it. Now, I can collect and organize my writing. It's contained, it's not just chaotic."
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com